Cleaning Out The DVR: A Killer In My Home (dir by Farhad Mann)

When the lockdown was first announced down here in Texas, my initial reaction was, “Well, at least I can clean out my DVR now….”

Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out like that.  First off, I got caught up trying to work my way through my collection of DVDs and Blu-rays.  Then, I ended up getting distracted by my efforts to binge my way through The Sopranos, Oz, and Deadwood.  And suddenly, here we are!  It’s nearly June.  The lockdown is in the process of ending.  And I’ve barely made a dent on working my way through the 230 programs that I have on my DVR.

Earlier today, I decided to finally get to work by watching the Lifetime film, A Killer In My Home.  A Killer In My Home originally aired on the Lifetime Movie Network back in February.  I was on vacation at the time so my wonderful sister was nice enough to record it for me.  Watching it was an interesting experience, just because there weren’t any COVID-19-themed commercials.  Instead, there were a ton of commercials for Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg.  I mean, seriously — whenever you think about how bad 2020 may be right now, just remember that, even before everything shut down, we had to spend a month and a half dealing with the Tom and Mike charm offensive.

As for the film itself, it tells the story of Allison Wright (Bree Williamson) and her daughter, Hollie (Hannah Vandenbygaart).  Allison and Hollie appear to have the perfect life.  Not only do they live in a huge house but Hollie appears to have the perfect future ahead of her.  Soon, she’ll graduate high school, get a nice car, and go to a good college.  But then, Allison’s husband and Hollie’s father suffers a heart attack!  While he’s dying in the hospital, he’s visited by Jenna Fallon (Krista Bridges) and her withdrawn son, Joshua (Percy Hynes White).  When Allison demands to know why Jenna is visiting her dying husband, Jenna explains that she had an affair with Allison’s husband and Joshua was the result.  Apparently, Allison’s husband spent years visiting and financially supporting Jenna and Joshua.  Now that he’s dead, Jenna and Joshua have no one left to provide for them.

Now, if you were Allison, what would you do in this situation?

Would you say, “Tough shit, you whore.  Get out of here and take that bastard with you!”


Would you say, “Why don’t you come live in our guest house?”

Now, to the film’s credit, Allison’s initial reaction is to tell Jenna and Joshua to go away.  However, a few weeks later, Allison has a change of heart and she allows Jenna and Joshua to move into the guest house.  Jenna and her son are supposed to stay away from the main house and out of Allison and Hollie’s lives.  Needless to say, things don’t work out like that.

Soon, strange things start to happen.  There’s a break-in at the house.  Despite her efforts to ignore him, Joshua still tries to talk his half-sister.  Jenna starts to throw biker-populated parties at the guest house.  Despite the fact that she claims to have no money, Jenna is able to buy her son an expensive jeep.  Allison comes to realize what we realized from the beginning: Jenna has sinister motives of her own!  The only question is whether or not Joshua shares those motives or if he’s just a pawn trapped in a game he didn’t intend to play.

A Killer In My Home is okay.  If I’m not as enthusiastic about it as I am about other Lifetime films, it’s because I never believed that Allison would 1) allow Jenna to stay in the guest house and 2) allow her to continue to stay in the guest house even after it became obvious that some seriously strange stuff was going on.  Allison lost my sympathy by doing that.  However, I did really like Krista Bridges’s performance as the unstable Jenna and I though Hannah Vandenbygaart gave a good and sympathetic performance as the daughter who is basically just sick of dealing with the adults in her life.  I could definitely relate.

Finally, the house was nice.  Lifetime movies always feature the nicest houses and A Killer In My Home featured one of the best!

Lifetime Movie Review: Homekilling Queen (dir by Alexandre Carrière)

Poor Whitney Manning!

As the central character of the Lifetime film, Homekilling Queen, Whitney (played by Kaitlyn Bernard) only wants one thing.  She wants to be homecoming queen!  And really, why shouldn’t she be?  She believes that she’s the most popular girl in the entire school, despite the fact that no one actually seems to like her.  Add to that, she’s rich and serving as homecoming queen is practically a family tradition!  Her mother, Connie (Ashley Jones), was homecoming queen.  So was her grandmother, Evelyn (Jennifer Dale).  Both Connie and Evelyn are determined that Whitney will be the next homecoming queen.  Connie’s even taught her how to do a proper pageant wave.

How determined is Whitney?  She’s so determined that, over the summer, she even murdered one of her rivals!  That’s determination!

Still, things are never quite as easy as they should be.  For instance, Whitney may think that she has the election all sewn up but Natasha Hart (Kayleigh Shikanai) feels differently.  Natasha is sick of the school being run by mean girls like Whitney.  Natasha decides that she’s going to run against Whitney!

At first, Whitney is dismissive of Natasha and her campaign.  Everyone knows that Natasha had a drug problem in the past.  Apparently, she drove her car into the bleachers while high on oxy.  (This automatically makes Natasha cooler than anyone I went to high school with.)  However, Natasha is now clean and sober and looking to make the world a better place.  To Whitney’s shock, Natasha starts to pick up support for her campaign.  Even after Whitney sends everyone in school a nude picture that’s been photoshopped to look like Natasha, Natasha’s campaign continues to build momentum.

Well, if photoshopped nudes won’t knock Natasha out of the race, how about planting drugs on her?  And if Whitney has to murder someone to get those drugs …. well, that’s politics.

It’s an interesting film.  On the one hand, you’re supposed to dislike Whitney, Connie, and Evelyn.  And it is true that Whitney does commit a murder or two.  On the other hand, they’re all so determined to win that homecoming election that you can’t help but admire the level of their dedication.  If it means giving students gifts to win their vote, Whitney’s willing to do it.  If it means seducing the school’s creepy principal to keep her daughter from being disqualified, Connie’s going to do just that.  Kaitlyn Bernard, Ashley Jones, and Jennifer Dale all really dig into their roles and do a great job at capturing the unhinged obsessiveness of their characters.  Jennifer Dale is especially a marvel as the coldy pragmatic Evelyn.  When she glares at anyone who would stand in her granddaughter’s way, you’re left with no doubt that Evelyn is not someone who you would want to mess with.  She’s scary but you would definitely want her to have your back in a confrontation.

Also doing a good job were Kayleigh Shikanai and Krista Bridges, who were perfectly cast as mother and daughter.  Every scene between them rang true and, watching them, I was reminded of the way that my mom and I would relate to each other.  They brought an unexpected sense of reality to a film that could have otherwise just been an enjoyably over-the-top melodrama.

Homekilling Queen was a lot of fun and, given the number of times that Lifetime rebroadcasts all of their films over the year, it’s one to keep an eye out for.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Sometimes The Good Kill (dir by Philippe Gagnon)

(Hi!  I’m currently in the process of cleaning out my DVR!  Hopefully, I’ll be done before the next Congressional special election but it’s going to be a close one!  Anyway, I recorded Sometimes The Good Kill off of Lifetime on May 13th!)

I have to admit that when I saw the title of this one, my first thought was, “Since when is Lifetime doing Spaghetti westerns?”  I mean seriously, Sometimes The Good Kill is one of those titles that would be perfect for a Franco Nero or a Tomas Milian (or maybe even a Terrence Hill) film.

But no, it turns out I was wrong.

Sometimes The Good Kill takes a look at the sordid things that happen behind the scenes at a convent, a question that has apparently obsessed audiences since the first time they heard Hamlet order Ophelia to “get thee to a nunnery!”  Someone is killing nuns, but why?  Things get off to a start when the old Mother Superior is found underneath a ladder.  Then another is found drowned in a bathtub.  The new Mother Superior (Allison Hossack) wants the murders to remain a secret because the convent is struggling financially.  So, instead of calling the police, she just puts the bodies in a freezer.  Fortunately, the newest arrival at the convent — Sister Talia (Susie Abrometi) — has a mysterious past.  She knows the streets.  She knows the darkest aspects of human nature.  Mother Superior wants Talia to solve these murders and she even hands her a gun to make the job easier.

Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?  It does but, once you get over the novelty of nuns hiding guns and solving murders, Sometimes The Good Kill settles down to be a fairly typical Lifetime movie.  The film moves at a rather stately pace and its full of scenes of nuns gossiping in low voices and sometimes, I found myself straining to understand what everyone was saying.  Speaking as someone who comes from an Irish/Italian/Spanish Catholic background, this is a film that I wanted to enjoy more than I actually did.

That said, here are a few words of praise.  While the film’s pacing may have been off, it was relatively well-performed.  My favorite suspect was Sister Jean (Deborah Grover), because she didn’t trust anyone and had no fear of letting people know that.  Even when told that “we’re all Gods creatures,” Sister Jean responded by rolling her eyes. We’ve all known a Sister Jean.  And then there was skittish Sister Mai (Lisa Troung), who was freaked out by the poor people who regularly showed up to ask for food.  Both Grover and Troung did very well in their roles.

Finally, I liked the look of the film.  Sometimes The Good Kill was full of visual atmosphere and took full advantage of its gothic setting.  The film had a visual moodiness, one that kept me watching even when the story itself was lacking.

That said, my favorite gun-carrying nun remains Ms. 45.

Sci-Fi Film Review: When the Sky Falls (dir by John L’Ecuyer)

I guess it’s open to debate as to whether or not When The Sky Falls is truly a science fiction movie.  It deals with a huge storm that basically produces extremely powerful lightning and the lightning occasionally appears to have a mind of its own.  I have no idea if there’s any scientific basis for this.  I don’t really understand how lightning works, other than the fact that you don’t want to stand under a tree in a lightning storm and you definitely do not want to get struck.

But, regardless of whether the film is scientifically accurate or not, I still feel like this should be considered a science fiction movie.  First off, there’s the fact that the lightning itself often does seem to be intentionally targeting the film’s heroes.  Though the film never specifically states this as fact, it does seem as if the lightning has developed enough of a personality to hold a grudge against those attempting to escape it.  Secondly, the film’s main character is an ozone researcher and that just seems like an appropriate job for a character in a science fiction film.  And finally, despite the fact that it premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network, the entire film feels like it belongs on the SyFy network.

Seriously, everything about this film — from the acting to the cheap but crudely effective special effects to the environmentalist protagonist — feels reminiscent of a pre-Sharknado SyFy film.  (It’s easy to forget that, before Sharknado, SyFy films pretended to take themselves seriously.)  The plot even follows the standard SyFy formula — a dysfunctional family spends the weekend at a cabin in the woods and end up getting separated once the big lightning storm strikes.  They start out arguing and they end up depending on each other for survival.  And, perhaps most importantly of all, Dad gets to prove that he’s not as lame as everyone thinks.  If Lifetime films all build up to that moment when everyone realizes that mom was correct, SyFy films often celebrate the uncool but capable father figure.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about When The Sky Falls is that it was even on Lifetime Movie Network to begin with.  Compared to more traditional LMN films — like Confessions of a Go-Go Girl and The Perfect TeacherWhen The Sky Falls feels a bit out-of-place.  Perhaps next year, SyFy will return the favor and produce a sequel to Back To School Mom.

But anyway, what about the film itself?  In no way can it compare to either SyFy or Lifetime at its best.  The script is predictable, the actors struggle with some seriously undeveloped characters, and the film never finds a steady pace.  Some parts of the film seem way too slow while others seem to be oddly rushed.  On the plus side, when taken on their own terms, some of the lightning effects are kind of fun and the film was shot in Canada so, at the very least, you get to see some really pretty scenery.

Seriously, I love Canada!

Love you, Canada!

Love you, Canada!